Graphic found on the New York Times review of the book, here.
The preface of Amor Towles Rules of Civility finds our heroine, Katey, and her husband attending the opening of a photography exhibit in Manhattan, in 1966. The exhibit is of photographs taken with a hidden camera on the subways, some 25 years before. She is stunned to find, amongst all of the other photographs, two of a man she recognizes, Tinker Grey. In the first picture, he is wearing a custom shirt and a cashmere coat, and is clearly enjoying life. In the second, taken perhaps a year later, he looks as though he hasn’t had enough to eat in awhile, and his face is dirty.
We are then taken back to the day Katey met Tinker Grey, and the year of their friendship, when, along with Katey’s roommate Eve, they become inseparable. Katey and Eve are living in a boardinghouse, and trying to make their meager incomes stretch far enough to include some fun, when they meet the very wealthy Tinker Grey in a nightclub, on New Years Eve of 1937. They are drawn into Tinker’s world of champagne and Bentleys, sky high apartments and the best that the world has to offer. As sometimes happens in such circumstances, a bit of a rivalry begins between Eve and Katey for the affections of Tinker. To give more detail would likely be telling too much, so I’ll stop there.
I liked Katey. I liked that she never let go of her morals, surrounded by the silly mores of the super wealthy amongst whom she is now traveling. I liked that she was equally fond of Russian literature, Charles Dickens, and Agatha Cristie. She is intelligent but not a snob, moral but not judgmental, and is clearly trying to find her way in Manhattan as a 20-something.
I really enjoyed Towles writing. He has a lovely style, that pulls you in and makes you feel as though you’re reading literature. I’m not quite sure that you are, but he almost convinces.